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DEC Finalizes Catskill Park State Land Master Plan
Balances Recreation and Wilderness Protection on State Lands
ALBANY, NY (09/04/2008; 1210)(readMedia)– The plan guiding the future management of the state’s 292,000 acres in the Catskill Forest Preserve has been finalized, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis announced today. The update to the Catskill Park State Land Master Plan has been the subject of extensive public comments and reviews and the new version strikes an appropriate balance of protecting the wilderness and expanding recreational enjoyment. Among other changes, the plan adds a "Primitive Bicycle Corridor" for recreation and includes invasive species management to address emerging threats to resources.
"This finalized Master Plan incorporates the significant public input we received throughout the development process and will assist DEC in managing the Catskill Forest Preserve to balance public needs with the protection of our precious resources," Commissioner Grannis said. "We will also continue to work with our partners like the Catskill municipalities and New York City to foster new opportunities for recreation and connecting New Yorkers to nature in this unique region, while ensuring that the resources are protected for this and future generations."
The Catskill Forest Preserve is part of the Catskill Park, which consists of 705,500 acres of public and private lands. Since its creation in 1885, the Forest Preserve has grown from 34,000 acres to nearly 300,000 acres of public land within Delaware, Greene, Sullivan, and Ulster counties. Forest Preserve lands are protected under Article 14 of the state constitution as "forever wild" and cannot be logged, leased or sold, and must be managed to protect wilderness values. The state pays property taxes on DEC land.
The original Catskill Park State Land Master Plan was developed in 1985 and classifies state forest preserve lands within the Park based on their physical character and capacity to accommodate human use. This resulted in four land classifications: wilderness, wild forest, intensive use and administrative. The Plan also designates management units and directs DEC to develop individual unit management plans that guide management activities and public use of those units.
In 2003, a proposed draft revision of the Catskill Park State Land Master Plan (CPSLMP) was released for public review and comment. In response to the input received, DEC revised the draft and proposed a new version in April 2008 for additional public review and comment. This final plan reflects that input. Revisions recognize existing and future mountain biking opportunities on state lands in the Catskills and commits DEC to preserving bike trail corridors. Specific changes from the original plan include the following
- Create a new land classification – Primitive Bicycle Corridor – to encompass approximately 156 acres. The Master Plan reclassifies four trail corridors (100 feet wide) through existing or proposed new wilderness areas, mostly in Greene County, that will allow the public to use a bicycle but will otherwise be managed according to wilderness guidelines. These corridors are along old roads and have had historic bicycle use:
a)Indian Head Wilderness: Mink Hollow Road – its entire length through the Indian Head Wilderness (3.2 miles)
b)Indian Head Wilderness: Overlook Turnpike from the Overlook Mountain Wild Forest boundary to Platte Clove and Prediger Road (4.5 miles)
c) Hunter-Westkill Wilderness: Diamond Notch Road – its entire length through the Hunter-Westkill Wilderness (3.2 miles)
d) Blackhead Range Wilderness: Colgate Lake -Dutcher Notch Trail, an old road including Colgate Lake Wild Forest to Stork’s Nest (2.4 miles)
- In Wild Forests, allow for bicycle use on roads open to the public, state truck trails, old wood roads, foot trails, snowmobile trails, and horse trails, unless such use is deemed unsuitable through the Unit Management Planning process.
- Increase the size of the Colgate Wild Forest from 600 acres to 1,495 acres, utilizing the 2,400-foot contour as the boundary. This will provide increased opportunities for recreation appropriate in Wild Forests, including bicycle use.
- Include invasive species management, as the original Master Plan did not contain any reference to this emerging threat. DEC and its new Office of Invasive Species will work with the Catskill Region Invasive Species Partnership to help identify and educate the public about invasive species. In addition, DEC may take necessary actions to control exotic invasive species where there is potential for significant degradation to the native ecosystem.
New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Emily Lloyd said: "The Catskill Park lies almost entirely within the New York City watershed. DEC’s management of these lands is important to the future of the City’s water supply and vital to the region’s economy. We are glad to see this revision of the Master Plan come to fruition and we feel it balances long-term conservation and recreational use."
Russell Thorpe, President of the Fats in the Cats Bicycle Club said, "We are very pleased that this Master Plan is responsive to comments by cyclists to preserve current and future mountain biking opportunities in the Catskill Forest Preserve, promote cycling as a health benefit, and contribute to local economies. Primitive Bicycle Corridors enhance the experience of mountain bicyclists by connecting wild forest areas and maintain the potential for recreational access and development of trail systems throughout the Catskill Forest Preserve. We look forward to working with DEC to identify and develop new mountain biking areas in wild forest areas consistent with the new plan."
Neil Woodworth, Executive Director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, said: "This is a very balanced plan that expands responsible recreational opportunities while protecting the Catskills, one of New York’s greatest and most beloved natural resources. This plan will create new mountain biking opportunities while protecting hiking trails on steep slopes of the Catskill High Peaks and will expand the Catskill wilderness to protect the summit of Hunter Mountain and the Escarpment Range."
Edward K. Goodell, Executive Director of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, said: "By reallocating and strengthening the wilderness and wild forest areas within the Catskill Forest Preserve, this plan manages to simultaneously balance the needs of various users and remain true to the ‘forever wild’ designation in the state constitution."
Lisa Rainwater, Executive Director of the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, said: "The Catskill Center commends the DEC for developing a thorough and fresh ‘green’ print for the Catskill Park and Forest Preserve. For generations to come, residents and visitors alike will benefit from the plan’s many advances, including increased protection of sacred places and the introduction of four Primitive Bicycle Corridors designed to challenge mountain bikers traversing the rugged Catskill Mountain wilderness. The Center also applauds the DEC for its aggressive posture in working toward eradicating many of the invasive species that threaten our native habitat."
The finalized plan can be found on the Department’s web site, http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/43013.html .